Fr. Ron Rolheiser
He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer. His books are popular throughout the English-speaking world and his weekly column is carried by more than seventy newspapers worldwide.
Fr. Rolheiser can be reached at his website, www.ronrolheiser.com.
Contemplative prayer, as it is classically defined and popularly practised, is subject today to considerable skepticism in a number of circles. For example, the method of prayer, commonly called Centreing Prayer, popularized by persons like Thomas Keating, Basil Bennington, John Main and Laurence Freeman, is viewed with suspicion by many people who identify it with anything from “New Age” to Buddhism to “Self-Seeking” to atheism.
I was blessed to grow up in a very sheltered and safe environment. My childhood was lived inside of a virtual cocoon.
Sometimes we’re a mystery to ourselves, or, perhaps more accurately, sometimes we don’t realize how much paranoia we carry within ourselves. A lot of things tend to ruin our day.
See the wise and wicked ones who feed upon life’s sacred fire
These are lines from Gordon Lightfoot’s song “Don Quixote,” and they highlight an important truth: both the wise and the wicked feed off the same energy. And it’s good energy, sacred energy, divine energy, irrespective of its use. The greedy and the violent feed off the same energy as do the wise and the saints. There’s one source of energy and, even though it can be irresponsibly, selfishly and horrifically misused, it remains always God’s energy.
It’s funny where you can learn a lesson and catch a glimpse of the divine. Recently, in a grocery store, I witnessed this incident:
A young girl, probably around 16 years of age, along with two other girls her own age, came into the store. She picked up a grocery basket and began to walk down the aisle, not knowing that a second basket was stuck onto the one she was carrying. At a point the inevitable happened, the basket stuck to hers released
In the Roman Catholic culture within which I grew up, we were taught to pray for a happy death. For many Catholics at the time, this was a standard petition within their daily prayer: “I pray for a happy death.”
Unless you are already a full saint or a mystic, you will always live in some fear of death and the afterlife. That’s simply part of being human. But we can, and must, move beyond our fear of God.
There’s a haunting text in the Book of Revelations where poetic image, for all its beauty, can be dangerously misleading. The author there writes: “So the angel swung his sickle over the Earth and cut the Earth’s vintage. He threw it into the great winepress of God’s fury.”
Hell is never a nasty surprise waiting for a basically happy person. Hell can only be the full-flowering of a pride and selfishness that have, through a long time, twisted a heart so thoroughly that it considers happiness as unhappiness and has an arrogant disdain for happy people. If you are essentially warm of heart this side of eternity, you need not fear a nasty surprise awaits you on the other side because somewhere along the line, you missed the boat and your life went terribly wrong.
“I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world.” Socrates wrote those words more than 2,400 years ago. Today more than ever these are words which we would need to appropriate because, more and more, our world and we ourselves are sinking into some unhealthy forms of tribalism where we are concerned primarily with taking care of our own.